Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reds Bistro & Wine Bar: Wine Country Cuisine







Located at First Canadian Place, in the heart of Toronto's financial district, Reds Bistro & Wine Bar brings a refined West Coast flavour to Adelaide Street West. A SIR Corp signature restaurant, the behemoth behind Jack Astor’s, Far Niente and Alice Fazooli's, this modern and stylish two-storey hot spot includes a bustling wine bar on the main level, favoured by Toronto wine lovers and the Bay Street enclave to take advantage of one of the city's most extensive selections of wines by the glass, with up to 80 bottles open at a time. The seating in front of the window fills up fast, so you have to arrive early, or hang out at the long marble bar and be prepared to swoop.



The Reds wine bar


Upstairs, you're transported to Executive Chef Michael Steh's acclaimed wine country-inspired cuisine, highlighting the freshest seasonal ingredients and culinary specialties inspired by wine regions around the world. The massive wine list offers something for every palate and even if you’re not sure which wine will best compliment your meal, each dish comes with two expertly chosen wine recommendations.




Dining amid the wine


Heralded as one of Toronto’s rising young chefs, and a committed supporter of local producers and farmers, Chef Steh has worked in some of the city's most notable restaurants, including Canoe, Biff's, Susur and Splendido. Raised by Slovenian-born parents, he's had the privilege of learning first-hand how to press wine, can fruit and smoke meat, methods he employs today to make Reds kitchen distinct. Steh acknowledges these early experiences, and time honored European traditions are the backbone of his culinary talent.



Executive Chef Michael Steh weaves his magic with intricate compositions 
and tightly focused flavours, inspired and driven by local seasonal ingredients


Red's interior is stylish and contemporary with accents of natural stone, warm woods and muted earth tones, with soaring ceilings and an entire wall dedicated to an open two-storey wine cellar. The spacious dining room has an inviting and comfortable ambiance, set in conversation-friendly clusters with most of the room showing off, what would normally be the magnificent floor-to-ceiling view over bustling Adelaide Street, but which unfortunately is covered these days due to construction in the area. 


The upstairs Dining Room at Reds



Conveniently located near the Canadian Opera House, and with tickets to see 'Love From Afar', we decided to give the restaurant a try and sample Red's Winterlicious menu. Appetizers included a rather flat and flavourless Cauliflower Soup with madras curry, poached mussels and smoked coconut; Baby Spinach Salad with coffee cured smoked duck, ice wine poached cranberries and toasted pine nuts in a citrus vinaigrette; and Crispy Smoked Ham Hock and Pigs Head Terrine with pear and apple sauce and rocket salad, which was tasty but not what we expected for a terrine. We didn't realize crispy meant deep-fried. Oh well, they can't all be winners.




Cauliflower Soup with madras curry, poached mussels and smoked coconut, 
which looked promising but was very disappointing. I couldn't finish it.

Smoked Ham Hock and Pigs Head Terrine


Entrées on the menu included Chicken Pot Pie with fontina cheese and glazed root vegetables in a crunchy mustard potato and mushroom sauce; Herb Crusted Ontario Trout with braised lentils and savoy cabbage, with watercress in a truffle and burnt butter vinaigrette, which was very good; Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin with sweet potato purée, Vidalia onion rings and horseradish cream; and Roasted Bay Scallops with apple vanilla chutney and salt candied pumpkin seeds on a pumpkin risotto.


Herb Crusted Ontario Trout with braised lentils and savoy cabbage, with watercress in a truffle and burnt butter vinaigrette

Chicken Pot Pie with fontina cheese and glazed root vegetables in a crunchy 
mustard potato and mushroom sauce


Pastry chef Sue Flemming is behind the Winterlicious dessert menu, featuring temptations like Liquid Chocolate Cupcake with a caramel peanut butter and jam frosting and fried banana; a Panna Cotta Tasting of Nutella, Preserved strawberries and lemon flavours; and the Chefs Artisanal Cheese Selection of Farmhouse maple whiskey cheddar served with house-made cherry preserves and toasted hazelnut bread — all with suggested dessert wine parings. 




Panna Cotta Tasting: Nutella, Preserved Strawberries and Lemon

Chefs Artisanal Cheese Selection of Farmhouse maple whiskey cheddar served with house-made cherry preserves and toasted hazelnut bread


With all of the really great restaurants in the area, I'm glad we gave Reds Bistro a try, but I don't think we'd rush back. Although the service was pleasant, we weren't overly impressed with the food. It seemed more like an upscale Jack Astor's with an expensive wine list. However, with a choice of three appetizers, four entrées and three desserts for just $35 before tax and gratuity, the Winterlicious menu was a good way to sample Chef Steh's cuisine before heading off to the opera. You never know, there still might be a standing ovation before the night is over.